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  • Neil Ide

A field sobriety test holds a key secret to faster learning speed.

Updated: Aug 17

Also lovingly referred to as a "drunk test" the field sobriety test has been used by law enforcement officers for decades to determine the cognitive abilities of a driver to determine if they are fit to be driving. Alcohol affects the hand-eye coordination of a person and results in substantial difficulty performing basic physical tasks.

In 2019 we performed a number of behavioral studies with willing participants to attempt answer an age old question: What makes some people legendary superstars and others not?


Many believe that genius is something that a person is born with but modern neuroscience is telling a completely different story. That story is that it's our behavior that leads to top performance and not our inherent ability.


Our core assumption is that a person's early childhood experience has more to do with their future than any other factor. Why? Because a person forms more neural connections in their first 14 years of life than the grand total rest of their life combined.

It stands to reason that the formative years of a person's life are a strong indicator of their future. Since most people are raised in some kind of family structure it means that a large portion of their neurological development is aided by their parents. In recent decades, work in the field of family systems theory has revealed incredible predictive capabilities of cause and effect. This can be distilled down to: behavior is inherited.


By working with several people, we found some incredible cognitive indicators especially from outliers with incredibly difficult childhoods. Two of our subjects Orson and Cindy(names changed to protect the identity) generated some incredible data.


Orson grew up in a an unstable family and experienced things like:

  • Being locked in a closet with a bible for days at a time to "learn how to be good".

  • Sexual abuse and rape by his father.

  • Beatings.

Cindy flat refused to talk about her childhood though she alluded to being abused by her father.


With both Orson and Cindy a reoccurring pattern showed up; they would frequently do things exactly backwards. For instance I would physically demonstrate how two simple components fit together and they would each before my eyes try to put the parts together the exact opposite way they were supposed to fit. At first this was astonishing to me but I learned over time that trauma experiences create 'bad' sectors in the brain that block proper function.


One day while counseling Cindy on a task I finished our discussion with a "Live Long And Prosper(LLAP)" gesture. Cindy is a Star Trek lover as am I so we had that common connection.

To my surprise Cindy was unable to form the split fingers gesture, though I had seen her do it before. It was like she had experienced a lapse in motor control on the right side of her body. The uncomfortable truth of any employer/employee relationship is that the employer/manager typically assumes the default role of the paternal/maternal in the relationship. The emotional baggage from one's own family is projected onto the manager/leader, and they are reacted to as if they are the same original parent.


Whenever I had 1 on 1 conversations with Cindy she was in a terrified state anticipating me to get violent. As it turns out Cindy was incapable of actually hearing anything I was trying to communicate because of her terror. Not only did this state have mental effects, but it had physical effects as well.


When I observed that Cindy could not form the gesture I asked her to hold up her arms and touch her nose back and forth. Just like in a drunk test. But, this wasn't a drunk test, this was cognitive behavioral therapy. Realigning the right and left sides of the brain. Cindy chuckled as we did this exercise together and after about 30 seconds of doing this she regained proper motor control and formed the LLAP gesture without difficulty.


Orson had been treating himself with psilocybin and was open to talking about his experiences. Because of that he was a far better communicator than Cindy and more productive of a worker as well. If you want to heal, you have to be open about your trauma and experiences.



Learning put to work


After learning that trauma affects motor function and how to "hot-wire" out of it, I began work with another subject named Julie. Julie had a childhood that was much closer to baseline 'normal' raised by loving parents who were not what one would not consider abusive. That being said I think the common beliefs and practices regarding child development are abusive and unhealthy, especially in the area of 'discipline'. Curious about a better way to discipline?


Over the coarse of a few months we taught Julie several skills that she had never learned. The first skill was TIG welding (GTAW). GTAW is not a difficult skill to learn. Like climbing a ladder, GTAW is a set of basic motor skills. The way I train is I start with the Crash Coarse. We learn 90% of a skill by doing, classroom lecture education is a weak teacher.


Day 1: Julie is in welding leathers with a helmet and gloves holding a TIG torch. I start with basic demonstration and then pass the torch. Julie picked up autogenous welding almost immediately. She completed her welding task with gusto.


Day 2: Another autogenous welding task, slightly more difficult than the first. I demonstrated what needed to be done and how to do it and left Julie to weld. I returned a few minutes later to find that things we're not going well with the task. In this moment most instructors would talk about technique; but this isn't about technique its about emotional-motor function. I asked Julie what she was feeling while she was performing the task.


Julie said she was reminded of when she was younger and her parents would invest in her brother's skill development but not in hers. She was the girl and wasn't allowed or able.


I asked her how she felt about that. She said she felt very angry and sad about it.


I then said "I can see how that would make you very angry and sad, I acknowledge your feelings. Lets shake it out". We then together did the 'drunk test' nose touch procedure for about 30 seconds until Julie had a smile on her face. When she resumed welding she had no difficulty whatsoever completing the task.


Feelings Matter, a lot.


Men are often taught that their feelings don't matter and they are to suppress them. It comes as no surprise to me that men are the predominant perpetrators of mass shootings, rape, and other acts of violence. If you are trained that your feelings don't matter you'd likely feel the same way about others.


What we feel and what we do with those feelings is by and large the most relevant conversation we can be having today. With over 140,000,000 American citizens polarized and ready to engage in violence; and another 160,000,000 Americans feeling caught in the middle its a crisis of monumental proportion.


If you are feeling like you're going nowhere in life and not achieving your goals and dreams check your feelings and dive into your childhood. There likely is some healing to do, know that you're not alone and there are places that can help you.

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